Fluoride in Drinking Water

by Gene Franks

Should you have it? How do you get rid of it if you don't want it?

Fluoride added to city water supplies is a particularly American phenomenon. We invented the concept and while most of the modern industrial world has already tried and rejected fluoridation, we stubbornly hang on. Fluoridation of drinking water was originally proposed as a solution to the toxic waste dilemma of the aluminum manufacturing industry. The rationale for adding it to tap water has been a claimed but never really proven protection against dental caries.

For those who want fluoride removed, we sell several products that will do the job. We also sell some very fine water purifiers that leave the most of the fluoride intact, if that's the way you want it.

To explain a bit about fluoride removal, there are some really good and a few not-too-bad ways to go about it. The best technologies are reverse osmosis and distillation. Both remove fluoride handily. If you do not want the total treatment of a distiller or a reverse osmosis system, the third best thing is a simple filter with a cartridge containing activated alumina, the standard industry strategy for fluoride removal. We like to say that the second best way to remove fluoride is with our enhanced performance fluoride filter, which uses the same activated alumina cartridge but in a unique format that significantly improves its performance. Under the right circumstances, standard carbon filters can also be used for fluoride reduction. (See this article.)

Activated alumina cartridges have some advantages and some problems. Their effective lifespan is fairly short, they are relatively expensive, and people don't like the word alumina in the name because it sounds too much like aluminum. We can find no evidence (and we've looked hard) that activated alumina adds anything objectionable to the water it treats.

Filters with activated alumina are popular. They are most often used in conjunction with other filters, usually carbon, since activated alumina alone does little for water except remove fluoride and arsenic. It does not improve the taste or remove chemical contaminants like pesticides. By using an activated alumina cartridge combined with a carbon cartridge, you get a good, broad-range water filter.

There are some more exotic fluoride removal methods, such as specialty ion exchange resins and a unique filter carbon called bone char that is made from animal bones. But the most substantial are the three main strategies just discussed: distillation, reverse osmosis, and filtration with activated alumina.

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